By Gal Sitty
While the death of deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi is a victory for peace and human rights, another tyrant in the Middle East continues to oppress his own people and perpetuate terror abroad. Both of these leaders mobilized their armies to attack hundreds of thousands of unarmed protesters who were asking for simple democratic reforms. Both of these leaders murdered many of the protesters in cold blood, imprisoned and tortured others and intimidated many more into silence.
These leaders have also taken pride in their ability to export their uncompromising violent ways abroad. Gadhafi’s regime has admitted responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am flight number 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland killing all 270 passengers and crew aboard. Assad’s regime continues to provide unconditional support to two international terror organizations responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians including many Americans.
One of these terror organizations, Hezbollah, has targeted and killed hundreds of American servicemen. Hezbollah, whom receives most of its funding and dictates from Iran, is also closely affiliated with that country’s Revolutionary Guard- the same force accused by US authorities of attempting a terror bombing campaign in Washington, DC.
The other organization, Hamas, while focusing most of its terror activity against Israel, has also targeted Americans on a number of occasions including an attack on a US diplomatic convoy in 2003 killing three security guards and severely injuring a diplomat.
With the new National Transitional Council now governing Libya that country’s standing in the world has risen and prospects for a better future for the Libyan people have greatly improved. Relations have improved between Libya and most other countries. Its new found democratic path has been welcomed by the West. This week Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited the country to lend its support to Libya’s ongoing democratic transition. Libya’s economic outlook is positive as well.
In Syria however, a country the “Arab Spring” movement reached not long after Libya, the despot leader Bashar Assad still manages to cling to power. Peaceful demonstrators are attacked by government forces almost every day. Prominent opposition figures have been assassinated. Many thousands have been arrested and many of those who have been released claimed to have been tortured during their detainment.
Assad’s oppressive and violent policies even extend into neighboring Lebanon. In Lebanon Assad exerts his influence through the terrorist organization Hezbollah which now controls much of the country. Peaceful anti-Assad demonstrations in the Lebanese capital of Beirut have been brutally suppressed by Assad loyalists.
These illegitimate leaders were never elected to power. Further, given the size of the popular protests against them it is clear to see that they do not act in the best interests of their own people. They hold on to power through the use of oppressive force, force that is not confined to within their borders.
So long as such violent dictators are in power they will always view peaceful democracies as a threat to their existence. Not because democracies actually promote a military threat against their regimes, but because the relative prosperity and individual liberties which flourish in democracies will eventually be demanded by the citizens of totalitarian states. For a dictator such as Assad agreeing to these liberties means ceding power, a proposition he is not willing to take up. Indeed, in Assad’s desperation to hold on to power his rhetoric has gotten more extreme, threatening large-scale warfare in the entire region.
As the Libyan people have so bravely shown us, if peace is to flourish then violent dictators must go. So long as there are tyrants who see it fit to use violence in any way and at any time in complete disregard to human rights and international law, peace will be threatened.